Royal National Institute of Blind People

Royal National Institute of Blind People
The letters "RNIB" in bold white sans-serif capitals on a teal rectangle where top-left and bottom-right corners are rounded.
Established 1868
Chairman Kevin Carey
Chief Executive Lesley-Anne Alexander
Location London, UK
Website Official site

RNIB is a UK charity offering information, support and advice to almost two million people in the UK with sight loss.[1]



The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) was founded by Thomas Rhodes Armitage, a successful doctor who suffered from eyesight problems.

In 1868 Dr Armitage founded an organisation known as the British and Foreign Society for Improving Embossed Literature for the Blind.[2] This later became the British and Foreign Blind Association.[2] In 1875 Her Majesty Queen Victoria became the organisation's first patron.[2]

The organisation received a Royal Charter in 1948, and changed its name to Royal National Institute for the Blind in 1953.[2] In 2002, RNIB membership was introduced and the organisation's name changed to Royal National Institute of the Blind.[2] In June 2007 the organisation changed its name again, to Royal National Institute of Blind People.[2]


RNIB is a national organization with branches and services throughout the United Kingdom including Northern Ireland.[2] The charity's headquarters are in London, England. RNIB's Patron is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

In October 2008, RNIB and Action for Blind People agreed in principle to combine some services across England. The new arrangement began in April 2009, resulting in Action for Blind People becoming an Associate Charity of RNIB.[3]

Vision and mission

RNIB's vision is of a world in which blind and partially sighted people enjoy the same rights, freedom, responsibilities and quality of life as people who are fully sighted.[4]

RNIB's mission is to challenge blindness by empowering people who are blind or partially sighted, removing the barriers they face and helping to prevent blindness.[4]


In 2002 RNIB became a membership organisation, enabling a greater proportion of blind and partially sighted people to get involved and have a say on how the organisation delivers services and what work it does.[5]


RNIB is governed by a Board of Trustees. The Board has 24 members, more than 50 per cent of whom must be blind or partially sighted. A number of committees support the work of the Board.[6]


RNIB's work is supported by more than 3000 volunteers throughout the UK.[7]

RNIB's work

Eliminating avoidable sight loss

Every day another 100 people in the UK will start to lose their sight[8] - but many causes of sight loss are preventable if they are caught early.[9] RNIB works to eliminate avoidable sight loss. To this end, RNIB leads on the UK Vision Strategy, developed by a large eye health and sight loss alliance, to set the direction for the eye health of the nation.[10]

Support and information

RNIB provides support, information and advice for people affected by sight loss, as well as for eye health and other professionals. In 2007/08 over 280,000 people a month contacted RNIB for general information on sight loss, to lend their voice to a campaign, for expert advice, or to buy an accessible product.[11]

RNIB runs a telephone Helpline (0303 123 9999) to provide information and support for anyone affected by a sight problem. Another telephone service, Talk and Support, offers people the chance to socialise and receive support as part of a telephone group. As well as telephone advice, RNIB maintains an accessible website and print and audio publications.

To support people coming to terms with sight loss, RNIB organises 'Finding your feet' weekend breaks. There are also courses in learning braille, and a range of information and products to help people affected by sight loss to live their daily life independently.

RNIB works to increase access to information for blind and partially sighted people.[12] This ranges from campaigning for more audio description on television, cinemas and at sports venues to getting books, bills and other written material available in accessible formats (such as braille, large print or audio). RNIB runs a radio station, Insight Radio - Europe's first radio station dedicated to the blind and partially sighted community. Insight Radio broadcasts online, on Sky channel 0188, on Freesat channel 777 and on 101 FM in the Glasgow area.

Education and residential care

RNIB owns several educational establishments and residential care homes:

RNIB Sunshine House School and Children's Home

Sunshine House is a specialist primary school, children's home and service for families in Northwood, Middlesex. The school educates blind and partially sighted children with significant learning difficulties and disabilities between the ages of 2 and 11 years. The residential accommodation is open to children aged between 5 and 14 years who are blind or partially sighted with significant learning difficulties and disabilities, whether or not they also attend the school. Children stay at Sunshine House overnight up to four nights per week, up to 50 weeks per year.[13]

RNIB Pears Centre for Specialist Learning

RNIB Pears Centre for Specialist Learning (Formerly RNIB Rushton School and Children's Home) was established in 1957 and is based near Coventry, Warwickshire. It provides specialist education for young people with sight loss, multiple disabilities and complex health needs between the ages of 6 to 19. Children can live in residential accommodation onsite or a small number of pupils attend on a day basis.[14]

RNIB is redeveloping the existing Pears Centre site with new purpose-built facilities costing £30 million. The main phase of redevelopment started in spring 2009 and is due for completion in 2011. The new facility will provide more places for children in the school and residential care home.[15]

RNIB College Loughborough

RNIB College Loughborough is based in Loughborough, Leicestershire and supports students with sight loss and other disabilities. The college provides further education programmes to learners aged 16–25 and adult employment programmes for adult learners aged 18–63 who are unemployed and looking to develop their skills or retrain and gain employment. The college offers residential or day programmes.[16]

Accessible products

RNIB runs an Online shop and several Resource Centres, which sell accessible products, gifts and publications. RNIB sources, designs and supplies products to help blind and partially sighted people live independently, and to make everyday tasks easier.[17] Products include talking clocks and watches, large button telephones, mobility aids, cookery aids and tactile toys and games.


The RNIB National Library Service contains more than 40,000 titles, making it the largest specialist library in the UK for readers with sight loss.[18] It stocks books in accessible formats, such as braille and giant print. It also stocks braille music. The RNIB National Library Service was created in 2007 when the RNIB's library services merged with the National Library for the Blind.

Audio books are provided through the Talking Book service. RNIB's Talking Books are recorded in DAISY format. Unlike regular CDs, Daisy's digital format allows listeners to use the CD in the same way as a print book, by creating bookmarks, speeding up and slowing down playback and jumping easily around the content.[19]

RNIB's online shop supplies accessible books, music and maps.

Good design

RNIB encourages good design to make websites, information, products, services and buildings accessible to people with sight problems.[20] RNIB's 'See it right' guidelines give practical advice on how to design and produce accessible information.[21]

Transcription Centres convert print and other material into accessible formats, such as braille, audio and large print. They also handle requests for transcription of mathematical documents, music and tactile maps and diagrams.

RNIB runs a number of training and consultancy services to help businesses and individuals create accessible services and products. Training includes courses on understanding sight loss, health and social care training, leisure industry training, disability awareness, and recruitment related training.[22] Consultancy services include product design, access design (covering built, pedestrian and transport environments), and web access.[23]


RNIB campaigns and lobbies on six main issues, as well as on reactive issues.[24] The six main campaign priorities are:

  • eliminating avoidable sight loss
  • improving access to health and social care
  • improving access to information and information systems
  • increasing employment amongst blind and partially sighted people
  • increasing income for blind and partially sighted people
  • improving access to television, audio visual culture and life-long learning.

Free access to sight-saving drugs

In August 2008, following more than two-and-half-years of campaigning led by RNIB, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued new guidance on drugs for treating wet Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). This paves the way for patients in England and Wales to receive sight-saving anti-VEGF drugs free on the NHS. Previously NICE had deemed the drugs too expensive for NHS availability.[25] RNIB's campaign generated a response from more than 13,000 people.[26]

Right to Read

RNIB is campaigning for books to be produced in accessible formats at the same time as they come out in regular print, and for the same price. RNIB research shows that 96 per cent of books are not available in large print, audio or braille.[27]

Access to television

The statutory requirement for audio described programming is 10 per cent.[28] RNIB is campaigning for this target to be doubled, and to make sure that accessibility is not compromised by the national switchover to digital TV by 2012. RNIB also wants to see more films available with audio description, and more programme guides available in accessible formats.


For every pound donated, RNIB spends 87p directly helping blind and partially sighted people, 11p on raising more funds, and 2p on administration.[29] RNIB organises fundraising events in the UK and overseas, as well as raffles, recycling schemes, legacy donations, online fundraising and corporate partnerships.[30]

See also


External links

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